Architecture’s Impact on Mental Health

Scarano Architect
4 min readApr 7, 2024
Architecture’s Impact on Mental Health

With a growing number of Americans faced with mental health issues today, it is important to understand how architecture plays a role in shaping our well-being. Here are some key points about its impact:

1. Physical Environment and Mood:

Our surroundings influence our moods, personality, and health every day.

For example, hospital patients in darker rooms experience more stress, use more painkillers, and have higher mortality rates.

Schools with poor space layouts can hinder a child’s cognitive development by up to 25%.

Traffic congestion during rush hour can increase rates of nighttime violence by up to 9%.

Architecture is not just a backdrop for living. It shapes who we become.

2. Design Elements and Behavior:

Ceiling height: Rooms with lower ceilings enhance focus, while higher ceilings encourage creativity.

Open-plan offices lead to more sick days for employees.

Air quality: Schools with cleaner air see lower rates of asthma-related absenteeism.

Privacy: Patients feel more comfortable talking to doctors in spaces with walls rather than curtains.

Architecture subtly nudges our behavior and attention.

3. Natural Light and Well-Being:

Exposure to natural light has positive effects on mood, stress reduction, and circadian rhythms.

Well-designed spaces can improve mental health, while poor design can evoke anxiety and other negative reactions.

4. Urban Design and Mental Disorders:

Growing up in a city doubles the chances of developing schizophrenia and increases the risk of depression and chronic anxiety.

Lack of bonding and cohesion in neighborhoods contributes to this effect.

Understanding the power of architecture allows us to create better-designed spaces that positively impact our mental health and overall well-being. Architects, with their unique skills and understanding of spatial design, can significantly contribute to improving mental health. Here are some ways they can help:

1. Biophilic Design:

Architects can incorporate nature-inspired elements into buildings and urban spaces. This includes features like indoor plants, natural light, and views of greenery.

Exposure to nature has been linked to reduced stress, improved mood, and better overall well-being. By integrating biophilic design principles, architects can create environments that promote mental health.

2. Mindful Space Planning:

Architects can design spaces that encourage mindfulness and relaxation. For instance:

Meditation rooms or quiet corners in public buildings.

Courtyards or green spaces for reflection.

Calm, clutter-free interiors that minimize sensory overload.

Thoughtful space planning can positively impact mental health by providing areas for introspection and stress relief.

3. Inclusive and Accessible Design:

Architects should prioritize universal design principles. Spaces should be accessible to people of all abilities, including those with mental health conditions.

Considerations include:

Wayfinding: Clear signage and intuitive layouts reduce anxiety.

Lighting: Properly lit spaces enhance mood and reduce depression.

Acoustics: Noise control is crucial for mental well-being.

Safety: Secure and well-lit environments promote feelings of security.

By creating inclusive spaces, architects contribute to a more supportive environment for everyone.

4. Community Spaces:

Architects play a role in designing community centers, parks, and public gathering places.

These spaces foster social connections, combat loneliness, and provide opportunities for engagement.

Well-designed community spaces can enhance mental health by promoting social interaction and a sense of belonging.

5. Therapeutic Environments:

Architects working on healthcare facilities can create healing environments:

Natural light: Hospitals with ample daylight have better patient outcomes.

Views: patients benefit from views of greenery or calming landscapes.

Privacy: Thoughtful room layouts and privacy considerations improve patient comfort.

Architects can collaborate with healthcare professionals to design spaces that aid recovery and reduce stress.

6. Reducing Stigma:

Architects can challenge the stigma associated with mental health.

By designing mental health clinics, counseling centers, and support facilities with dignity and respect, they contribute to reducing barriers to seeking help.

A well-designed mental health facility can positively influence patients’ perceptions and willingness to seek treatment.

In summary, architects have the power to shape our built environment in ways that directly impact mental health. Their thoughtful designs can create spaces that promote well-being, reduce stress, and foster a sense of connection and belonging. They can impact the amount of stress and strain felt on any given day. As we are made aware of the negative effects that stressors can have on the body, we are grateful to the field of architecture for delving into the science of mental health. Hopefully, one day soon, all structures will be built in accordance with laws that are written to significantly address the issues of mental health. As architects, we can continue to design and build keeping in mind the well-being of the client that will use the space. At Scarano Architect PLLC we have begun to incorporate these issues into our portfolio for quite some time. Please give us a call and we can talk to you about this or any other architectural situation you would like to pursue.